According to an analysis by CNN contributor Ronald Brownstein, Republican-held governors' seats in three of the four sunbelt states that are being ravaged by the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic are at risk of being flipped in the 2022 midterm elections.
All four states, Florida, Arizona, Texas and Georgia, are currently led by GOP governors who have been blocking efforts to slow the spread of the Delta variant which, in turn, has put them at odds with a majority of their constituents and could come back to haunt several of them as they run for re-election.
In the case of Arizona, Republicans in the state that flipped for Joe Biden over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, will have to contend with a strong Democratic contender running for a seat held by Gov. Doug Ducey who can't run again due to term limits.
According to Brownstein, "In Arizona, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has already announced her candidacy and is considered a strong front-runner for the seat that will open when term-limited GOP Gov. Doug Ducey steps down."
Florida's Ron DeSantis -- who reportedly has his eye on the White House in 2024 -- is looking increasingly vulnerable with his state leading the country in COVID-19 infections as he battles local leaders over mask mandates.
Writing, "Democrats have two plausible contenders against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis: Agriculture Secretary Nikki Fried and US Rep. Charlie Crist, a former GOP governor who changed parties," Brownstein added, "DeSantis' mask mandate ban is facing open defiance from school districts in most of the state's largest counties, including Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Hillsborough (Tampa); Orange County, which includes Orlando, is considering a mask mandate at a meeting this week as well. DeSantis lost all of those counties in 2018, though the partisan trend isn't as consistent as in Texas: in 2020, Trump slightly improved on DeSantis' 2018 performance in most of those large counties, and significantly in Miami-Dade, where he benefited from major gains among Cuban Americans and voters with roots in Central and South America."
In the case of Georgia's Brian Kemp, he will be faced with the triple threat of high COVID-19 cases, the lingering hostility of former president Donald Trump over his refusal to intercede on his behalf over the 2020 election results and the looming candidacy of Stacey Abrams who Brownstein suggests is all but certain to jump into the race.
Add to that, the changing demographics in all of the states.
"The 2022 governors' races in those four critical states will test whether these shifting patterns of geographic support have reconfigured the electoral balance enough for Democrats to dislodge that statewide GOP dominance. Though President Joe Biden last November narrowly won Arizona and Georgia and made gains in Texas -- in each case because of growing strength in the large metropolitan areas now feuding with the GOP governors over mask requirements, " Brownstein wrote.
Writing, "Many political analysts agree that the Sun Belt Republican governors and legislators are governing in a manner that risks further erosion in those suburban areas," the political analyst added, "... strategists across these states recognize that the central test for Democrats is whether they can post continued gains in the largest metropolitan areas, by energizing turnout among non-White and younger voters, but also by making further inroads among the racially diverse, well-educated suburban voters who trended toward them in the Trump years."
Brownstein added the caveat that Republican efforts to restrict voting could be crucial to GOP success in the states with the analyst writing, "Many events inside the four corners of these states will shape next year's key Sun Belt governors' races. But a failure by national Democrats to counter the moves by state-level Republicans to rewrite the voting rules could give the GOP a critical thumb on the scale in these closely contested struggles for control of some of the nation's fastest-growing states."
You can read the entire analysis here.